• Toro Rosso

Verstappen: F1 debut feels natural despite age

ESPN Staff
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Max Verstappen says his early elevation to Formula One feels perfectly normal after he received some pearls of wisdom ahead of his debut from some of the sport's most experienced drivers.

Toro Rosso rookie Verstappen will shatter driver records at this weekend's Australian Grand Prix when he makes his debut aged 17. The son of former F1 driver Jos, Verstappen's rise raised questions last year about whether a driver who cannot legally drive without an adult in his own country should be competing in the sport.

However the rookie is unfazed by his early step up and says F1 has always been in his blood.

"Well, to be honest, since I was younger I've never seen anything else," Verstappen said. "Because my dad was doing it I've basically grown up into it. It doesn't feel like anything new - I just deal with it."

At the Thursday drivers' press conference in Melbourne, other drivers alongside the rookie were asked to give advice to Verstappen ahead of his debut. One of them was reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton, who suddenly had a realisation about his own age as well as the Dutchman's.

"I've only just realised, I'm the oldest driver [at the press conference]," Hamilton said. "Jeez. You were born in '97? Jeez! I signed my first contract with McLaren in '97. Bloody hell. I don't really have any words of wisdom, he'll learn on his way."

Daniel Ricciardo, whose first full season in F1 was at Toro Rosso, said Verstappen should not lose sight of what is important in his first year.

"This is probably more cameras than he's ever been in front of in his life - they're alright, pretty friendly! Just go and enjoy it, I guess. Get behind the wheel and remember that's the reason you're here - Saturday, Sunday. Just enjoy those few hours and then the rest will come."

Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel added: "I think despite the fact he's still young he still has a lot of experience. I'm sure he is fast otherwise he wouldn't be here. I don't think he needs much advice."

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